Monday, November 13, 2006

John Mayall + Chicken Shack

Sunday evening at The Anvil, Basingstoke to see Chicken Shack and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. The Anvil is a large theatre and it was not quite a sell-out. A slight preponderance of men in an audience mostly of couples, but more interesting was the age-homogeneity: this was an audience of fifty-somethings which had grown up with Mayall in the late sixties - like me. Wherever young people are getting the Blues, it was not here, not with these people. (At least not in Basingstoke).

I was underwhelmed with Chicken Shack. An anonymous bassist, drummer and rhythm guitarist overshadowed by the ego of Stan Webb, who presents as an alpha-male working-class rough diamond. Repartee with the audience and a vaudeville feel. This is a band without sparkle doing a workmanlike performance they have done a thousand times before.

The Bluesbreakers were a league above, in terms of crispness, talent and impact. John Mayall came across as a thoroughly nice, somewhat unassuming guy (but so old!) and made a fuss of the band members, especially his new protege Buddy Whittington (click here) who follows in his celebrated line of guitar-heroes (Eric Clapton notably).

Mayall is impressive on keyboard and harmonica and can still sing. Whittington has tight, incisive guitar which sounds a little Claptonesque, although without his inspiration.

Even so, I found my attention wandering some of the time. The Blues is quite a restrictive format, and it's hard not to fall into the rut of overlong improvisations on a predictable bass line.